Leander Paes was distraught for the better part of yesterday after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) picked two teams for next month’s London Olympics pairing Mahesh Bhupathi with Rohan Bopanna and Paes with Vishnu Vardhan, ranked 207 in the world doubles.
“I am at a loss for words right now. I’m shocked that we have given in to dirty politics. My ranking (World No 7) makes me the country’s highest ranked tennis player and afforded me the right to chose my partner, but due to two people (Bhupathi and Bopanna who refused to partner him claiming they came together at the start of the season with a view to playing the Olympics) holding the country to ransom, my Olympic dream is in jeopardy,” an emotional Paes told MiD DAY from London yesterday where he is preparing for next week’s Wimbledon.
A day earlier, the five-time Olympian had categorically stated to the AITA in a strongly worded letter that he “would have no other option but to withdraw from the Olympics” if told to go to London with a “player ranked 207/306 while the No 13 and No 15 ranked players form another team together based on their refusal to play with me.”
Though the former India Davis Cup skipper yesterday did not say whether or not he was willing to give in to AITA’s compromise formula of pairing him with Sania Mirza for the mixed doubles, he was vocal about the injustice being meted out to him.
“The sad part of this whole episode is that people, who should have ideally been penalised by the federation are, in fact, being promoted by that very federation. Today, I don’t feel like the son of the soil anymore,” Paes signed off.